Kean Computer Science Students Travel Beyond the Grave
New smartphone app brings graveyard’s information to the public’s fingertips
Nestled under ancient trees beside the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth lies a cemetery, richly studded with gravestones. Even through few words, the aged markers tell eloquent tales of the lives lived long ago in this town famous for its role in history. The fates of entire families, of patriots as well as unknowns, can be gleaned from the inscribed details on each slab.
A thoroughly modern innovation, developed by Kean University Computer Science students, now provides access to the wealth of information contained in the cemetery. Historical researchers, genealogists and any interested person can hold all the tales from these crypts in their own hands.
In September 2012 Reverend Higgs, a pastor of the Church, challenged Kean University Computer Science students to create a smartphone app to make the burial ground’s information easily accessible. This was indeed no small task as the cemetery contains over two thousand tombstones, in various stages of corrosion.
The Kean Computer Science and Information Technology student team, under direction of professor Dr. Patricia Morreale and student Carlos Silva, divided into two groups, one to create an iPhone app and the other, an Android app. Jason Bonafide, serving as database developer and administrator, supported both teams.
The Apple iPhone development team, was under the leadership of Josh Lisojo, with Allan Goncalves, Nathaly Lozano, and Harold Liao all contributing in areas of map and features. Lisojo also handled search functionality. The Apple iPhone emulator was used to build the Apple screens.
Daniel Church led the Google Android development team, with Dev Das, Steve Holtz, and Jugal Shah working on map, features, and search, respectively. The Android OS required expertise in Java and XML.
The project was very demanding, as each team had to find ways to mirror the other team in search functionality and features. The Apple app (fpc Cemetery app) debuted in the Apple store mid-March 2103, with the Android app (FPC Cemetery) arriving in the Android store in April. Currently both apps are free to download.
The app is easily navigable and even incorporates humor (the search bar contains the prompt “I see dead people”). Users may seek information by name, year of death, age, or section of the burial grounds. Each individual’s file includes birth and death dates, age, cause of death, epitaph and a photo of the gravestone if available. In addition, there are maps and photos of the graveyard, and information for those planning a visit.
Reverend Higgs is very satisfied with the final results and says,
“The app was well received at the NJ Historic Trust annual preservation conference in Newark. It clearly represents a cutting-edge approach to linking the latest technology to the necessity of preserving and rediscovering our history.
Everywhere I've shown the app, people have been impressed by the quality of the work and intrigued as to how this technology can open new audiences to appreciating our heritage. My sincere appreciation to the Kean team for pioneering this new avenue to history.”